Hunter Doohan in Soundwave (Photo: Foggy Bottom Pictures)
(Q&A Corner is a semi-regular feature on Film Frenzy that focuses on those both in front of and behind the camera: actors, directors, writers, and other cinematic movers ‘n’ shakers of all stripes. In this installment, we interview actor Hunter Doohan.)
While Hunter Doohan never appeared on Breaking Bad, the young actor nevertheless has had the opportunity to co-star with not one but both leads of the hit AMC series. There’s a nice symmetry in that, and it seems to fit a career that so far has been, well, breaking very nicely, thank you.
Despite his youthful age, Doohan has already written, directed, produced and starred in a number of short films, and he’s also nabbed small roles in an episode of HBO’s Westworld and the pilot for CBS’s aborted reboot of the popular 1980s cop show Cagney & Lacey. He landed his first leading role in Soundwave, a nifty indie thriller that was completed in 2018 and is now making the rounds on such streaming platforms as Amazon Prime and Vudu (read the review here). As for that Breaking Bad connection, he’s presently playing the younger version of Aaron Paul’s character in the Apple TV+ series Truth Be Told and will be co-starring as Bryan Cranston’s son in the upcoming Showtime miniseries Your Honor.
Film Frenzy: How did you initially get involved in acting?
Hunter Doohan: I grew up all over the South — mainly Fort Smith, Arkansas — and there wasn’t always a lot of opportunities to act. But when I was a sophomore in high school, I tried out for a play and pretty much ended up spending most of the next three years of my life in that drama department.
Initially, I was going to attend Oklahoma City University to pursue a BFA in theater but I instead took an internship with a casting director (Elizabeth Barnes) in Los Angeles the summer after high school, met my manager, and decided to put college on hold and stay. Then I spent a little over four years working my day jobs, doing a two-year acting program in Santa Monica, staying in other acting classes, and auditioning for parts before I booked Soundwave, which was my first credit that wasn’t a short film.
In those shorts, you not only acted but also worked as a writer, director and producer. How did you acquire the freedom to wear so many hats?
(Laughs) I basically started writing because no one was giving me the opportunities. For a while, my entire reel was made up of shorts I had written and made for as little money as possible with friends. I think every young actor should be doing that. It’s where I learned the most and it gave me a chance to show people what I could do.
Would you say you’re a film buff?
I wouldn’t claim to be a film buff — maybe a TV buff. I try to watch at least the first episode of everything and I always feel like I’m watching too many series.
Speaking of TV, you have a recurring role in Truth Be Told, where you play the teenage version of the convicted murderer portrayed as an adult by Aaron Paul. Was there any attempt to mimic Paul’s movements and demeanor, maybe by studying his past work, or did you just concentrate on solely playing the role as written?
Well, I had certainly seen a lot of Aaron’s work by being a huge Breaking Bad fan, but it was really a combination of things. I took a lot of the character of Warren Cave from the novel (originally titled Are You Sleeping) as well as the scripts. We did work on a few mannerisms of his that I could match — little details like how we both held the flashlight in our mouths (while I was breaking into a house and he was up to no good in prison) or matching the way Aaron scratched his head in a specific way when he was nervous.
We also tried to separate them because the whole idea was that it was supposed to be shocking that the teenage version of Warren Cave could be convicted of such a brutal murder, and then when you see Aaron, he’s spent 20 years in prison and has joined a white supremacist group for his own survival.
You recently worked on a miniseries for Showtime called Your Honor, in which you co-star as the son of a judge played by Bryan Cranston. Is there a date yet for its release, or might it be held up in any way by the coronavirus tragedy?
I’m so excited about Your Honor! Like I said, I’m a huge Breaking Bad fan, so I feel like I won some sort of sweepstakes since I got to work with Aaron and now I’m working so closely with Bryan. Unfortunately, we were down in New Orleans shooting but had to go on hiatus due to the coronavirus, so we haven’t finished the season yet.
I’m not sure when it will premiere on Showtime, but I know we are all excited and eager to get back to New Orleans when it’s safe for everyone to do so. I was so heartbroken by how hard New Orleans was hit by COVID-19. It is such a beautiful city with the most amazing people.
Looking at the chronology, Soundwave was not only your first feature film but also your first starring role. How did you land that picture?
Yeah, Soundwave was my first. It was a pretty straightforward process: I sent in a self-tape of three scenes and then had a meeting with Dylan [director Dylan K. Narang] to talk about the character. I then got the official word that I booked it! I loved the script and was beyond excited to play Ben. And having an excuse to quit waiting tables for a few weeks was nice, too!
How would you describe the character of Ben Boyles in Soundwave?
To me, Soundwave is really a story about acceptance. Ben is not only driven by the disappearance of his father but also paralyzed by it. He’s really not able to appreciate Antonio or Detective Macy until he loses both of them tragically. He’s quite isolated for most of the film (and, I imagine, most of his life) because his focus is so singular — except for Katie [played by Katie Owsley], who I think was able to reach Ben and make him hear things that others couldn’t.
I think I really gained this new perspective on the story when I lost my dad the year after we shot Soundwave. Dylan was actually kind enough to send me the unpolished edit of the film so that my dad and I could watch it together before he passed away from complications due to ALS. It was a really special moment and something I’ll never forget.